Sen. Bernie Sanders gets a bit testy when he’s called out for skipping a lot of votes during his 2016 presidential campaign, especially when it’s during a candidate forum to keep his current gig.
The socialist senator from Vermont sounded off on a moderator Monday during a 2018 General Election Forum when asked whether he would commit to missing fewer than 5 percent of votes if re-elected, alleging the question was a trap designed to reveal his hand for 2020.
“As a U.S. Senator, your number one job is to vote in the U.S. Senate. In your first term in the Senate, Senator Sanders, you missed only 1.7 percent of the roll call votes that were held. That’s very close to the average of your peers,” the moderator said.
“But in your second term that was not the case. In 2016, you missed nearly 71 percent of the roll call votes. That was 115 out of 163 votes that were held that calendar year. Can each of you pledge tonight that you will miss no more than 5 percent of the roll call votes during your term?”
The moderator gave a grinning Sanders the first 60-second opportunity to respond, and he didn’t hold back. The senator quickly pointed out that he was involved in far more important work than serving his home state in 2016, but he did manage to weigh in when “my vote was needed.”
“I think maybe you didn’t hear me the first time,” Sanders said, referring to a previous question about his plans for 2020. “I ran for president of the United States. And when you run for president of the United States, you actually go around the country and you have to campaign in order to do that. And I am very proud that here in Vermont on the primary election night we received 86 percent of the vote, that’s the highest of any candidate in the campaign.
“But the bottom line is you’re asking me the same question you asked me before. I returned, by the way, though I did miss many votes, most of those votes were kind of lop-sided votes, but on key votes where my vote was needed I did come back to Washington,” Sanders said, dodging the question entirely.
“So you’re asking me once again, will I be running again for president of the United States. If somebody – any of these ladies and gentlemen run for president of the United States – they’re going to miss some votes. If I run for president of the United States, I’m will also miss votes.”
The moderator wasn’t having it, and continued to press Sanders on his voting record.
“With all due respect, sir, I am aware that you ran for president in 2016. I am also aware that you ran for U.S. Senate in 2012, and I’m also aware that you’re running for the Senate in 2018,” he said. “So the specific question was whether you would commit to missing no more than 5 percent of the votes. But it sounds like your answer is no.”
An angry Sanders cut in, alleging the moderator was instead prodding about another presidential run. He insisted the moderator “check the record” of other presidential candidates who also missed votes, then undoubtedly regretted the comment seconds later when the moderator laid down the facts.
“We’ll move on in just a second, but for the record I do want to mention there were several other U.S. Senators who ran for president in 2016 and you missed more votes than any of the others running for president that year,” he said.
“I’m not so sure that is accurate,” Sanders said.
“That is, in fact, the case,” the moderator fired back as other candidates chimed in to confirm. “It’s also true that you missed move votes than many of the candidates that ran in 2008, 2012.”